loose moose and mouse nests

It’s true – there was no “World of Music” show today on The Radiator. Thanks to everyone who got in touch to ask about it. I was looking forward to it too, since the online streaming and phone service were just restored last week.

Everything’s fine. I do have a good explanation though, are you ready?

It started yesterday (Sunday) around 2p, trying to leave Bennington. The RAV4 lost power. Engine still ran along more or less smoothly but there was no acceleration. And then two emergency lights came on: one forthright (“check engine”); and the other downright mysterious – “VSC TRAC” – not my first encounter with this particular cryptogram, in fact I found I had written the translation in the Toyota manual the last time it spontaneously manifested: ‘Vehicle Skid Control’. In other words a completely unilluminating warning light considering the present situation, which had occurred on dry pavement. Alarming, nonetheless. So not entirely purposeless after all. It only looks that way.

A little nursing along and power cycling got the vehicle as far as East Arlington where an open (chocolate) shop could be found to borrow a phone. 45 minutes later the flatbed showed up to tow it the 13 miles back to the dealership in Bennington.

intact airfilters: SO overrated.

intact airfilters: SO overrated.

Meanwhile, waiting for the tow, a quick check (to be clear: not by me) inside the engine casing revealed a disturbingly cozy scene of domestic bliss: the little space beyond the punctured air filter housed several large wads of random fuzzy materials and…sunflower seeds.

Lots and lots of perfect little sunflower seeds. Black and shiny, black-oil sunflower seeds. All jam-packed in there.

Curious: it’s just the same kind of seeds we use to fill the bird feeders. The feeders on the back deck. All the way around the back of the house, on the back deck, with many deep feet of snow covering the ground inbetween. How did they…? Doesn’t matter. They did. And here they were, happily piled up by the hundreds, staying warm over the winter in my engine compartment.

It occurs to me I’m lucky it’s been a relatively dry spring so far, or they might have sprouted. Or molded. Or sprouted THEN molded.

Must.   Move.   On.

So, OK, another night in Bennington. That’s alright. Bennington’s nice. And the dealership opened first thing in the morning, so it would just be a matter of time before we’re back on the road.



But there’s a little more to this story before the happy ending.

At a stoplight on the way to Toyota I looked out the window of the tow truck and noticed…a flatbed truck hauling a whole herd of life-sized white moose (with one brightly colored one, at the back.)

It was a long bed, the moose were two abreast, and there must have been around a dozen or so strapped on back there.

The moose are hardly recognizable in this raw form as kin to the same, colorful beasts that walked the streets after the last Bennington Moosefest.

But I realize that’s exactly what this herd had come for.

I thought about it – soon they’d be dropped off, one by one to assigned artists all over town, and they’d be brought to full artistic life just in time for the unveiling in mid June as Moosefest 2009 gets underway.

The stoplight turned too soon to get a picture. I tried to be content with the memory of that image alone…a flatbed truck hauling a large herd of albino moose. You don’t see things like that very often. Not even in Vermont.

When the car had been dropped off at the dealership, we called a taxi to bring us back to the same motel we’d stayed at the night before.2009-mar29-benningtonmoose011

As soon as that taxi turned into the motel driveway…there it was! Unbelievable! There sat the moose truck, with its leggy fiberglass cargo, parked across the length of the parking lot. I was going to get a picture after all. What luck.

The sunset was pink, and I was able to get a little of that reflection in a couple of the shots.

The only finished one was painted to look like a Tiffany lamp and it glowed in the evening light. It was beautiful.

After dark, it rained. And I took a few pictures of the herd standing in the puddled parking lot with reflections glowing all around them.

By the I got up this morning around 6:45 I noticed the truck and the moose had already already gone. Off to a really early start.

That should have been the end of the story of the encounter with the albino moose caravan, but there’s one last part to share before this story ends.

The dealership opened at 8 this morning, we arrived around 7:45. Got in right away. Then Toyota thoughtfully provided a ride to go get breakfast at a nearby diner while the car was being worked on.

The omelette and benedict plates had just been placed on the table when a loud conversation began behind me. A man, talking to a woman and another man, and someone on the other end of the cellphone.

“Yeah, well I gotta drop one off at the school, and another one near County, and then I gotta go downtown…” (pause) “Well one fell off the truck you know and broke an antler so I gotta fix that before I…” (pause) “That should be alright, they’re not that heavy so if he can give me a hand when I get there…”

The driver of the moose flatbead was sitting right behind me.

When they were getting ready to leave I got up and shared with him and his crew the pictures I’d taken the night before, and we talked about the coincidence of it all. Took a few more pictures out in the parking lot, then we went our own ways for good.

By the time breakfast was done and we got a ride back to the dealership, the car had been fixed. That fast. Seems the seeds had infiltrated the throttle mechanism, and the engine shut down as a precaution to prevent any more driving that could cause further damage. (Never did get an answer exactly why the ever-vigilant ‘VSC TRAC’ felt its presence was necessary in this situation.)

The techs vacuumed out the engine (professionally and technically, I am certain, as only dealerships can do at $65/hour), replaced the air filter, and reset the warning lights. Good to go.

So that’s the whole excuse story. Missed work today, and missed doing the show at the Radiator. On the positive side there are a few cool pictures to show for it, and an extra unplanned day off is always welcome.

I did get to meet the moose driver.

And, I found out from the dealership that mice are quite repelled by the scent of peppermint oil. Need to get some right away. (Now if I can also figure out how to keep those annoying seeds from swarming in when it starts to get cold I’ll be all set.)

Hope to catch up with you next week at the Radiator. I picked up a recording of Alash (the Tuvan throat singers – see previous post) at the show on Sat. night and it’s great. We’ll give it a listen and check out some other new stuff on the next show. ‘Til then enjoy the moose gallery:

If you’re an artist who has participated in one of these large scale public art projects I’d love to talk to you about your experience with it. Drop me a comment here or get in touch.

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